An Essay by GNB Youth, Quintavious Jennings 

Your past Does Not Determine Who You Are      

All I could remember was seeing the sun slowly creeping through the clouds as the officers put the handcuffs on me and escorted me to the back of the police car. I did not understand it then but being arrested and charged with several accounts would save my life. Life is full of experiences that will teach you lessons that you can either learn from or overlook. I chose to learn from every experience after this defining moment in my life. After that night, walking through doors took on a new meaning in my life and there are 3 doors that have made the biggest impact in my life: the Courthouse, the Regional Youth Detention Center and Goshen New Beginnings. 

The first door that I entered that made a big impact on my life was the door to the County Courthouse in November 2014. As a thirteen-year-old, African American young man, just the idea of facing a judge with such serious charges is terrifying. Yet, four months after being charged, I had to appear in court and meet face to face with a judge, as she would be the one to give me my official sentencing. I walked to the podium and looked up at her. She stopped, stared into my eyes and said,

“You are too young, and it is not too late for you to turn your life around, but you have to want it. I can’t want it more than you.”

She reduced my sentence and added a stipulation that with good behavior I could be released early to a program into the community. After that moment, I decided to change and break the cycle of my family going in and out of jail. 

The second door that I had to walk through that had a major influence on my life was the Regional Youth Detention Center. From the moment I walked into the RYDC, I realized that I never wanted to come back to a place like that. I saw young men get into fights and get beat up. Everything at the RYDC reminded me of what I wanted to get away from; gangs, fights, criminal activity, and pain. After being at the RYDC for three years, I finished my sentencing and was given the chance to go to a program that would help me achieve my goals. I went to a few programs, but it was not until I went to Goshen that I felt a true sense of family and acceptance. 

In July 2019, I entered through the third door that has helped shape me into the young man I am today, though I am still growing and evolving. Goshen New Beginnings is an independent living program that supports youth like me. I needed someone to believe in me and see past my story. I needed a group of people to believe in my dreams. I needed people that saw my pain but would help me work through the pain and not give up on me. I am so blessed to have found a community that has accepted me and is providing me with the tools I need to become better. I want to do better because I know that, typically people with my story end up back in jail or dead, and that will not be my ending. 

Six years ago, the chapters to my story were ugly and sad, but today I can proudly say that my past will not determine who I am or where I am headed. I have spent countless nights praying and asking God to help me turn my life around and show me the correct path to take. God has surrounded me with people who care about me, but I have learned that I need to do the work - for my past not to determine my future. My thought process, goals, and decision- making need to change, because it all starts with me, and I am worth it. Life is full of doors, and I will continue to open doors to new opportunities, happiness, and a story full of change, grace and second chances.


A letter from our CEO...

In a follow up to his father's letter to you all, our CEO, Zach Blend, took some time to thank you and to give you an update on where we are and where we are going.

Would you consider an end of year gift to support the foster youth of Goshen Valley?

Donate Here.

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Dear Friends,

As we look forward to the new year, I consider it an honor to update you on the progress being made within Goshen Valley. A wise man once said, “if it was easy, everyone would do it.” We have an amazing team on the front lines caring for children and families, but I would be remiss if I didn't also thank our donors and community partners who have made our work to date possible. All of you are the reason that Goshen has been able to not only survive, but grow and thrive through 20 years of changing seasons.

In 2019 we celebrated our 20 year of ministry to children. Much has changed since 1999, but what has stayed consistent is the unwavering support of those who know of our work. In recent years, I feel as if we have done an admirable job at putting resources to work the right way, whether it be in our ministries that are evolving such as Goshen Valley Boys Ranch or our ministries that are emerging such as Goshen Therapeutic Services. Some important highlights and outcomes for each of our programs in 2019 include:

Goshen Valley Boys Ranch: We have completed the construction of the Goshen Community Wellness Center that includes 12,000 square feet of classroom, staff training, clinic and gymnasium space. The significance of this facility cannot be understated. We have new found capacity to serve our boys and our staff in ways not previously capable.

Goshen New Beginnings: In May we congratulated 9 high school graduates, setting a mark locally and nationally. 7 of those young people are now enrolled in college.

Goshen Homes: We now serve nearly 40 children; all of whom are siblings that were at risk of experiencing separation absent the care of our foster families. We have families located in Cherokee, Cobb and Pickens County.

Goshen Therapeutic Services: We have a new opportunity to work both with birth families impacted by foster care, and also to preventatively help at-risk families be strengthened before losing their children. We were awarded the state contracts to provide these services in August, and we look forward to a wider launch in 2020.

We understand that now is not the time to rest on our laurels. Now is the time to seek ways to create better outcomes for our youth in residential care while starting to offer family-preservation services. I am confident that we are ready to do both with the high standard that Goshen has become known for, but we can only continue to do them with your help.

We are well positioned to truly shape both child welfare and community mental health in the state of Georgia in the years ahead, but we cannot do it without you. As you consider your end-of-year giving, I ask that you remember Goshen Valley. The well-being of our children and the future of local families hangs in the balance, and we hope you will answer the call as part of our Goshen Family. 

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year,

Zach Blend
Chief Executive Officer Goshen Valley Foundation


A Letter from our Founder...

With the end of the year approaching and our need for giving growing with the holidays, our founder, John Blend, sent a letter to our donors. We wanted to share it with you, our Goshen Family.

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Friends,

I was raised a Lutheran. Sunday School, acolyte, Boy Scout, Little League, Luther League, on to a Lutheran college. My dad took the same train every day, my mom was at home. I was in the inaugural Baby Boomer batch.

In 1966, the summer of my sophomore year in college, I studied Latin American literature at the National University of Mexico, in Mexico City, DF. When not in class, I worked in a jewelry factory near the University. Over the summer, I volunteered at a Catholic orphanage in the suburbs of Mexico City. The orphans were “thalidomide babies”, born with no arms. I brought broken jewelry from the factory to the orphanage and the kids were paid to restring the broken necklaces with their feet and toes. When I came back to the States that fall, I would try to send the Mother Superior $20 when I could.

Thus came the seeds of Goshen Valley.

Twenty years ago, having spent the years prior riding horses and teaching my daughter to drive our old Jeep, God woke the seeds brought from the hills of Mexico City, and led the Blends to welcoming hurting kids and servant families to Goshen Valley. We established the Goshen Valley Foundation in 1998, and gifted Goshen Valley back to Christ.

Over these past 2 decades, the Goshen Family has listened, learned, and executed. A dear preacher friend observed some years ago that he preferred if Goshen would pray, not plan, as the story has already been written. There’s wisdom there.

So, what is in store for Goshen? If the past is the prelude, we will continue to serve. Our community will continue to sacrifice at our side and on our behalf. We will hope that our Father is pleased with the sanctuary He has given us.

In a coming note, Zach will share more about where Goshen is heading in the future. For now, I want to thank you for your role in the past 20 years of Goshen. We believe God has made the world a more welcoming place for the youth who have called Goshen Valley home, and for that, we thank you.

With love and much gratitude,

John Blend


Goshen hosts 7th annual Cherokee Child Welfare Luncheon presented by Northside Hospital Cherokee

Goshen hosts the 7th annual Cherokee Child Welfare Luncheon presented by Northside Hospital Cherokee.

On Thursday Sept 19, over 275 community leaders in child welfare came together for the 7th annual Cherokee Child Welfare Luncheon, presented by Northside Hospital-Cherokee. This year’s event was headlined by Tom Rawlings, state director of DFCS, and we were also joined by Miss Georgia 2019 Victoria Hill.

Ike Reighard of Must Ministries opened the day with a prayer and an update on Must’s recent State of Hope grant. They were awarded these funds in an effort to service families preventatively, with the aim of fewer youth entering in to foster care.

Victoria Hill, Miss Georgia 2019, shared her passion for assisting girls in foster care, and told those in attendance how she plans to use her platform this year to help foster youth. Victoria then sang “A Horse with Wings,” a song she says could have been written from the perspective of a child in foster care. Victoria will be competing in the Miss America pageant on December 19th.

Zach Blend, CEO of Goshen Valley, then shared an update on Goshen Valley. He shared that Goshen has launched our fourth agency; Goshen Therapeutic Services. This agency is designed to strengthen and restore families through licensed, comprehensive therapeutic services. The aim of this program is to provide services both to families who have already lost their children to foster care, and also strengthen those at risk of losing their children. Zach also gave an update on the Goshen Community Wellness Center, set to open in November on site at Goshen Valley Boys Ranch, and shared the story of the 9 high school graduates from Goshen Valley in May 2019.

Brooke Ford, Director of Cherokee County DFCS, provided an update on our local DFCS office. Brooke shared that their after hours team is fully staffed, they have hired 18 new case managers this year, and that employee retention is an important focus for their team. Brooke also shared a video of their employees sharing stories of why they choose to live, work, and play in Cherokee County.

Tom Rawlings, State Director of the Division of Family and Children Services, shared about his work and priorities as the head of DFCS. He said his main goal in office is to improve the support of the frontline workers. He wants frontline DFCS workers to be seen as heroes in the same light as nurses, firefighters, teachers, and other professions are in the eyes of the community. He stated that this change will reduce turnover and improve safety and outcomes for the youth served by DFCS.

This year, 2 Goshen Spirit Awards were given to community leaders who have gone above and beyond to serve the vulnerable children of our community. The first was given to Deidre Hollands, former leader of Cherokee County CASA. Deidre served for 19 years and founded CASA in Cherokee County. She led the campaign to build the Children’s Haven visitation center across from Cherokee High School that serves to reunite and restore families. The second award went to Ronnie Reece who this year retired from a full career working security in the Cherokee County Court. Ronnie is a much-beloved member of our community who is highly deserving of this award.

The program concluded with all in attendance reciting Our Cherokee Commitment, a pledge recited at the event each year. Goshen Valley would like to thank all who attended and made this event such a success. More pictures from the event can be found on Goshen Valley’s Facebook page.